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UN rights expert urges Fiji to update legislation to provide firm foundations for education reforms

SUVA / GENEVA (15 December 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, today called on the Government of the Republic of Fiji to modernise the legal framework in order to provide a solid basis for education policies and planning.

“Fiji has made significant strides in universalizing access to tuition-free education, and improving its quality throughout the country,” Mr. Singh said at the end of his first official visit to the country. “However, the Education Act must be updated in a comprehensive fashion to ensure that all aspects, including the right to full access to quality education, teaching conditions, and financing, are clearly defined.”

“Fiji is going through an historic period of transition in the education system to put an end to ethnic divide,” the independent expert said commending the Fijian Government for its political commitment to reforming the education system comprehensively, and “its efforts to build a better Fiji for all, with a focus on multicultural education.”

To that end, the Special Rapporteur called on the Government to ensure that the education provided is universally available to all children in rural and remote areas without discrimination, as required by human rights law, and that its laws, policies and practices are in line with state obligations for the right to education.

“The quality of education must be continuously strengthened by improving infrastructure, by students’ educational attainments, and by making the teaching profession professionally coveted and socially esteemed,” Mr. Singh noted.

“Providing free education, textbooks, and subsidized transportation for all is commendable,” he said. “Welcoming the unprecedented increase in education spending, I encourage the Government of Fiji to continue to prioritize education spending to strengthen the quality of education.”

The Special Rapporteur also acknowledged official efforts to strengthen technical and vocational education and training with innovative schemes. According to the UN expert, technical colleges are vital pathways for Fiji’s youth.

During his nine-day mission, Mr. Singh met with high level Government authorities, parliamentarians, civil society representatives and international organizations.  He also visited schools, a university and technical colleges in Suva, Lautoka and Sabeto, and spoke with academics, teachers and administrators.

The Special Rapporteur will prepare a report to be presented at the UN Human Rights Council in June 2016, providing recommendations for strengthening the education system in Fiji, founded on the right to education.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16880&LangID=E

Kishore Singh is the Special Rapporteur on the right to education since August 2010. He is an Indian professor specialized in international law, who has worked for many years with UNESCO for the promotion of the right to education, and advised a number of international, regional and national entities on right to education issues. Throughout his career, Mr. Singh has supported the development of the right to education in its various dimensions and worked to better understanding this right as an internationally recognized right. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Education/SREducation/Pages/SREducationIndex.aspx  

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Fiji:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/FJIndex.aspx

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